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How to use your broken smartphone from a PC

Update: AirDroid and Vysor added!

Unfortunately, smashing the screen of your smartphone is fairly a common occurrence. If this has happened to you and you’re now the unlucky owner of the notorious spiderweb on an unresponsive touchscreen, you don’t have to say goodbye to your device just yet. You can still use it from your PC. Here's how.

How to recover data if your screen is broken but you can still see the display

If you've broken your touchscreen but the display is still working (you can see it), you can fix this by using a USB OTG (On The Go) and a mouse connected to your device. A USB OTG connects mobile devices to other devices. Basically, your Android device has a mini-USB port and you need to connect this to a mouse that has a USB port. The USB OTG links these two together.

Once you have connected the mouse, you can unlock your device regardless of whether you have a pattern, PIN or password. We recommend using passwords anyways because they are highly secure. 

Now that your phone is unlocked, you can connect it to your computer and either transfer the data you need to your microSD memory or connect it directly to your PC and transfer the files there.

broken smartphone
If your touch screen is broken, don't fret, you can still recover everything. / © ANDROIDPIT

How to recover data if your screen is off

If you can't see your screen, you might need to get a VNC program. There are plenty of these on the market but make sure you pick one that's safe and free. These programs move your Android interface to your PC so you can control it from there.

In order to use these programs, you'll need to download the program to your PC but also on your Android device. There are some paid programs out there too but they usually include more features than this. So if you're looking for a more extensive tool, you can grab one of these instead.

Recovering files with AirDroid

AirDroid is software that connects your smartphone to your computer. You can use it from a web interface or through an application on your computer. You just have to install it on your PC and on your Android device.

Through your account, you should be able to connect to both devices. On your smartphone, you will see several icons that give you access to features such as file transfer or app uninstalling. You can take a look at the different options but the one we're looking for is the Backup.

Make sure you use the same login details and go to your phone and press the save button. You can also go through the application: click the name of your device in the left menu and click the Backup menu within the three tabs at the top. Your data will then be saved onto the computer.

airdroid1
File transfer and backups are done with ease. © ANDROIDPIT

Plus: AirDroid also allows you to see your notifications on the computer.

AirDroid: Remote access & File Install on Google Play

Recovering files with Vysor

Vysor also allows you to use your Android phone from a desktop computer. It works through an extension for Chrome, which has a clear advantage: you can use Vysor on Windows, Mac and Linux. A simple USB cable connects the phone and desktop.

You can use Vysor's basic functions with the free version. With it you can, for example, connect the devices to take screenshots from Android. With the paid version, screen quality is better, full screen display is available and data transfer can be performed by dragging and dropping all without a cable connection.

Application setup is simple. We found it to be occasionally slow and, as mentioned above, the image quality is not optimal in the free version.

Vysor - Android control on PC Install on Google Play

AirDroid is probably the best way to use your smartphone from your PC because it offers more than Vysor. Perhaps TeamViewer also deserves a place in this list but unfortunately it does not work with many Android devices. 

If you still can't get your data

Another solution for getting your data off your phone is to take it to a shop that can fix it. Yes, this option costs money but you'll not only have your data but also have a fixed phone. 

Make sure you ask around for a reputable repair shop. Once the phone has been repaired, they can easily steal your data. If you go to one of the big dealers, you'll probably pay more but you're also less likely to get ripped off.

Have you recovered data from a broken smartphone? Let us know how in the comments.

Readers' favorite comments

  • Faizan 6 months ago

    how does using fingerprint means you are out the luck? the screen is broken not the fingerprint sensor.

15 comments

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  • so......is there anyone with a solution that acutally works? NOTHING stated here works. the reason? you have to have a working screen!! even the "help" for the phone with no working screen relies on the ability to use the screen thats not usable.....

    • Here's what worked for me --my screen broke and wouldn't display anything HOWEVER the touch still worked.

      - Using memory of the key placement, I entered my pin to unlock the phone.

      - Next, using my husband's phone as a guide (because it runs on the identical os), I navigated to the 'Accessibility' feature in settings, and switched on 'Talk Back'. Doing this took a lot of the guess work out of navigating with a blank screen.

      - Next, I turned on 'USB debugging,' also found in settings.

      - From there, if your situation is similar, you should be able to install Vysor on Google Chrome on your PC, install the ADB drivers (upon opening Vysor in Chrome using the provided link) and then connect your phone via USB cable for the screen to be mirrored on your PC.

      - Because my phone is pretty crappy, when I connected it to the PC at this point, I got an error message saying that the Vysor APK file could not be installed on the phone. To get around that I found the Vysor installer file for android on apkmirror.com, downloaded it and copied it to my phone. Then, I located it on my phone via the file manager and installed it. From there I was able to connect via USB cable and mirror my phone's display to my PC. Thank Heavens!!

      I quite like Vysor. On my new phone I'm gonna keep it installed and USB debugging activated as a sort of fail-safe should I lose use of my screen in the future. Hope this was able to help you.

  • my phone is Samsung galaxy fame and connecting a mouse does not work on it how could i fix it then

  • You can also use an MHL adapter on a Samsung phone to get HDMI out to a TV to show your screen and give permissions for the VNC program.

  • You can download the trial version of the software and check if your device is in the supported device list.

  • Hi Cory - related to the question asked below: how can I install something on my Android device (Motorola Droid Maxx) if the screen is totally dead and black? The phone is on, but I can see nothing. I'd like to be able to retrieve my Contacts from this device, but 1) I don't have debugged USB, and 2) are there VNCs that don't have to be loaded onto the phone? Hard lesson learned about backing up (and about not trusting Verizon's backup programs).

  • So, I need to wipe my phone (Nexus6, easier said than done, read on) - the screen stopped working visually and touch is impossible at this point. I got another Nexus 6 and signed in, recovered everything and, I am good to go there. I signed into the Manage Devices page, and there are several Nexus 6's in there - the one I want to wipe which was "added" 2 years ago is not responding to the request to Ring, so I assume it wont wipe the device, either. Also, I don't want to make the mistake of it wiping the Nexus6 I actually want to keep using.

  • So how do I install a program on my phone when the screen does not work?

  • Lene 6 months ago Link to comment

    Thanks! The USB-OTG is saving my data (at least what what not backed up yet)!

  • Rhys 6 months ago Link to comment

    Remember Google Play is your friend! Even when your screen is broke you can install apps remotely via a browser (however I know some apps of this nature require you to activate permissions before they work which could be a problem if your screens bust..)

  • Mark G. 6 months ago Link to comment

    I agree the most important thing to do is to BACKUP your data, use at least 2 different types of storage media - USB stick/SD/SSD/hard drive/cloud storage /CD-DVD.

    Using a VNC if your screen is faulty sounds like a good idea... But the fact that you have to have the program installed on your phone before the screen becomes faulty means it's not a viable option for like 99% of users who have broken screens.

    Yes some people may install such apps and services in the unlikely event that the screen breaks.

    Is this the only way to access your device in this situation?

    Peace ✌

    • also, you have to give permission to said applications to even remote into the phone before they work... its a catch 22

  • Alex R. 6 months ago Link to comment

    But you can backup your data before itself right it will more safe and less time consuming.

  • Faizan 6 months ago Link to comment

    how does using fingerprint means you are out the luck? the screen is broken not the fingerprint sensor.

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